Don’t forget to taper. Stay off of Ogg!
In many wonderful ways the people I run with throughout the woods locally have quickly become the sisters that I never had (the world is a better place probably because of this). They ensure that I find success, but at the same time I am protected, usually, from myself. This includes the week leading up to a race.
Back in the world of 5K road races, one could conceivably wake up early, head to a race, sign up, and take off for three miles and finish with a bottle of water…and a cotton t-shirt that was always a size too small. Life was simple. Life was good. In fact, you could go far enough to run three miles the day before and still pull off a decent race.
I never thought that those days would not exist as mileage gets higher. It turns out that when you are involved in long distance running, in my case trails, rest is equal importance to training. This overwhelmingly holds true the week of a race. Currently, I am 36 hours out from beginning a hell bent journey that will take 21 miles of my life away. Knowing this, it was crucial that everyone within the group ensured that I was not moving through the majority of this week. Meaning, I was tapering.
Tapering (Noun): The quickest way for a runner to develop schizophrenic tendencies while waiting for their next race. Conditions that can take place include fidgeting, restlessness, excessive eating, and nightmares that you forgot to wear your shorts to race day.
One of the biggest and hardest principles that I have struggled with as a runner is understanding how important rest is for the body. I love beating my body up and making poor choices (I am a trail runner after all), but through my brief history on this planet many times I was directed (incorrectly) to push past the pain. The reality is that we work hard for our adventures, but we also have to rest hard for our adventures. Our bodies have to recover from the training. Without that rest the body never hits an optimum peak for performance and the risk of feeling lethargic, dead legs, or lack of energy is extremely high when it matters most. Meaning, there are some days when you just have to stop.*
As a new trail runner the above concept is really hard. I don’t like to stop, I don’t like to walk, and I don’t like to sit idly and look at Facebook photos of other people’s runs. This makes tapering a very, very hard thing to do. Yes, painfully so, this goes back to the vital importance of patience when dealing with so many miles.
With that said…
Today, as someone who is not even close to a professional, but sadly operates their own blog; I will give you the tips to be a master taper:
- Long Run: Get it in. One last long run before your race. In my case, knowing a race was a week away last Sunday I went out for a 10 mile run. It was painful, I got lost (again), but it was needed.
- Sleep: I. Am. A. Teacher. This also equates to…I. Do. Not. Sleep. This past week has been a great opportunity to allow my body to rest. Being home right after school is a strange concept, but much appreciated that I can ease off my legs.
- Walk: If there was a four letter word…well…another four letter word…that I consider inappropriate, it is ‘walk’. The concept of not moving fast enough to get from point A to point B (this is why my wife does not enjoy grocery shopping with me). However, moving through the motion of body without gasping for breath is relaxing in its own right, plus is keeps you a bit more loose.
- Roll It Out: The love-hate relationship between cylinder shape objects and
runners will always exist as long as humanity does (the cylinders will win the war). Foam rollers, while nasty little creatures, are delights when used to loosen up tight spots throughout the body.
- Food: This one is tricky. If you have been running long enough you have been programmed to follow a specific code when looking at a meal…EAT EVERYTHING WITH NO REGRETS! Be careful during the taper week; don’t overeat, don’t under-eat, and this is not the week to try out that 900 milligrams of sodium burrito that you have been eyeballing at the local 7-11. Stay normal, stay safe. Your bowels and the forest will thank you later.
- Snap, Crackle, Pop: I have zero regrets recognizing that my primary care physician is actually my chiropractor. He sees me way too much. I do make an effort to stop in the week of tapering just for a ‘tune-up’ before heading out. Heaven knows he will see me the week after the race as I try to ponder how I am to make my body move again.
- Bonus (optional): Get caught up on Japanese anime shows! Like this new video that absolutely put me in tears within the first three minutes.
Truth is, we spend a lot of time on our feet, in the woods, running from bears, and eating gooey things that come out of plastic containers…for fun. As much as we love the sport, in order to continue that love, lets not forget who we are outside of the run.** It is important to respect the taper, and in doing so the trails may (probably not) respect you.
*It hurt to type that sentence
**OH MY GOSH! I ACTUALLY SOUND LIKE A TRAIL RUNNER!